Baarschot to Brugge via Valkenburg (Limburg, The Netherlands & Flanders, Belgium)

We had a plan to go to Limburg on Boxing Day but changed our minds when my uncle told us about the possibility of cycling in the limestone mines today. We already have a hotel booked tonight in Brugge but that’s okay – we’re  here and have never been to Limburg nor cycling in limestone mines so we change our plans to fit in more fun.
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We arrive early in Valkenburg so that we can take a look around before the ride. The town is absolutely gorgeous. It’s easy to see why it is so popular with domestic tourists. The town centre is well-preserved with old buildings and sections of the fortress walls.
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There’s even hills here. Small ones but hills all the same within the bounds of this flat country. It’s so pretty.
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Especially the sight of Valkenburg Castle nestled between the wooded hills.

My uncle and aunt are caught in a traffic jam so can’t join us on the mountain biking adventure. It’s a pity but we can still go and they will join a late tour. We sign in and walk down a steep long spiral staircase into the mines where our bikes await us. Helmets must be worn because the ceilings in the tunnels are so low. For once we Aussies are at a cycling advantage because the Dutch guests struggle a bit with the concept and practicality of the helmets.
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The ride is amazing. We’re way underground in a live working limestone mine. The rock here has been mined for centuries, first by hand and now by electric saw. Progress is still slow even today with each miner taking just three blocks of limestone out in a single day (it used to be one before electric saws).
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We ride about 4km (2.5 miles) in our 90 minute adventure. We stop along the way to learn about the natural and human history of the mines. Sometimes we have to duck low to pass through tunnels and other times we have to walk to squeeze through smaller spaces. It’s good fun.
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At the end of our your my uncle and aunt are waiting up top for their ride. We say our farewells, thank them for having us stay and set off into the sunset for the long drive to Brugge.
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When we arrive at our hotel in Brugge about 2.5 hours later we fall instantly in love with the town. It’s old and traditional. There are Christmas markets in two squares. There’s old medieval buildings. Horse drawn carriages rattle through the streets. And winter’s chill is in the air. We immediately decide to extend our stay from two to three nights.

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